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Performing through pandemic requires constant adjustment

The latest pandemic lockdown is déjà vu all over again for arts organizations such as the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony, which has been forced to alter even its shift to online streaming .

The symphony has been adjusting to the reality of recorded streams rather than live, in-person performances, though there were bumps along the road during previous lockdowns that didn’t allow musicians to get together for recordings. The most recent provincial directive means the final show of the season had to be cancelled.

It’s all part of ongoing adjustments, says KWS executive director Andrew Bennett.

“We weren’t permitted to rehearse and record for streaming in the previous red-zone designation. The new restrictions as introduced this week prohibit that for all the performing arts – theatre, music and so forth – immediately. Sadly, there isn’t any room to manoeuvre there. For us at the symphony, that’s unfortunate timing because that coincides with the last four weeks of our normal season, which was due to finish at the end of April,” he said.

Now, the organization is figuring out how to continue providing its music to the community under the current circumstances.

“We’re now trying to work out what, if anything, we can do to rescue… the end of our season.”

Even live-streaming events have been impacted. Luckily, most of their events had already been filmed, with the exception of Stewart and Stravinsky, which was supposed to stream on April 30, but has now been cancelled. 

“There’s a two-, three-, four-week delay, depending upon the individual project, between us recording and streaming the material. And that means that we do have material that can still go out, we’ve yet to show,” said Bennett of material that’s still available.

Part of the upcoming concerts is the ‘Pops’ series which includes Whitehorse, Iskwē, and the Classic Hits of Tin Pan Alley.  Other upcoming events include two new ‘Kinder-concerts’ aimed at youth and offered for free, as well as an outreach program, a video series geared towards people that have difficulties engaging with technology.

The goal is for KWS to continue its mandate, said Bennett.

“The symphony has been there for the whole of our community, the whole region, from which we draw so many patrons for our live concerts. We’ve been there to the community – virtually, of course, in most cases. Very occasionally, some special events where we tend to occupy people’s driveways, but that’s all distanced, of course.

“Whilst we are disheartened we’re not going to do the final few weeks of work that we have planned, we know that we have served you really well over the last 12 months. And we’re determined as soon as restrictions are lifted after the summer – who knows what that’s going to look like? – but as soon as we can do live public concerts, we’re going to be doing that.”

For now, there’s the upside of streaming a diverse range of music.

“We offer such a variety of work. That means that people can connect with us in so many different ways,” he said. “The great delight of the last couple of months has been seeing the people who are really excited about classical music, traditional classical music – we’ve been supplying them with music. But, equally, in the concerts for the youngest members of the family – we’ve been supplying that as well.

“Keeping connected right away across the community is something we’ve been able to do. In many ways, we’re excited by the fact that everybody still can say ‘there’s something for me,’ which is a real pleasure.”

The variety of options will be on display in the upcoming Pops series concerts, he adds.

“You’ve got Whitehorse –  indie folk-rock. You have the First Nations artists in Iskwē performing something rather more out there. It’s very exciting. The orchestra really enjoyed working with her. And then you have something, if you like, more regular with the orchestra concert, which is our Tin Pan Alley concert looking at the music of New York in that period. It’s really useful for everybody and encourages people to tune in to one of the streams that help support the organization.”

More information including live streams and how to donate can be found online.

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